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Discrimination against one is discrimination against all
by Audrey Azoulay
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
16 November 2017
Marking International Day for Tolerance, the head of the United Nations cultural agency underscored how tolerance must be nurtured to celebrate the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together.
“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human,” said Audrey Azoulay, the newly-appointed Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in her message on the International Day.
“Discrimination against one is discrimination against all,” she highlighted.
Ms. Azoulay pointed out that as globalization is accelerating across the world, societies are undergoing deep transformations, which open vast opportunities for dialogue and exchange as well as raise new challenges – sharpened by inequality and poverty, enduring conflicts and movements of people.
“We see today the rise of exclusive politics and discourses of division. We see diversity being rejected as a source of weakness,” she said.
Ms. Azoulay maintained that fuelled by ignorance and sometimes hatred, myths of “pure” lore cultures are being gloried while scapegoating and repressing people.
Also citing “barbaric terrorist attacks designed to weaken the fabric of ‘living together,’” she spotlighted the need that tolerance be more than the indifferent, passive acceptance of others.
“Tolerance must be seen as an act of liberation, whereby the differences of others are accepted as the same as our own,” stressed Ms. Azoulay.
She said that that meant respecting the diversity of humanity on the basis of human rights; reaching out to others with dialogue; and standing up to all forms of racism, hatred and discrimination.
Noting that all cultures are different, she emphasized that “humanity is a single community, sharing values, a past and future.”
“There are seven billion ways of ‘being human,’ but we stand together as members of the same family, all different, all equally seeking respect for rights and dignity,” she underscored.
Ms. Azoulay termed tolerance “a struggle for peace” that calls for new policies that respect diversity and pluralism on the basis of human rights.
“Most of all,” she added, “this calls on each of us, women and men across the world, to act for tolerance in our own lives, in seeking to understand others, in rejecting all racism and hatred, including anti-Semitism.”
The UNESCO chief said its role is “to deepen the binds of a single humanity, through understanding, dialogue and knowledge,” which is why the UN agency defend humanity’s cultural diversity and heritage from pillaging and attacks.
“This is why we seek to prevent violent extremism through education, freedom of expression and media literacy, to empower young women and men. This is why we work to strengthen dialogue between cultures and religions, spearheading the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures,” she said, adding that it was also why “UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities works to fight racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion.”
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New report shows links between discrimination against minorities and statelessness around the world
by Minority Rights Group, agencies
In Buddhist Myanmar, Muslim Rohingya are denied citizenship. They face extreme violence, hate speech and persecution. Many have been forced to flee their homes. In 1982, Myanmar changed the law, so that nationality was acquired at birth only by members of 135 listed ethnic groups. Rohingya were excluded from this list.
The Rohingya case is an extreme one, but Minority Rights Group International’s (MRG) latest report shows that many other minorities and indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to statelessness.
The report, Denial and Denigration: How Racism Feeds Statelessness, launched on 24 October to coincide with a high level event at the UN General Assembly in New York, asserts that minorities make up a large portion of the world’s stateless population.
Everyone has the right to a nationality, but many millions of stateless people worldwide are left in limbo, with no official homeland. They can be denied a job, schooling, health care or even a mobile phone. Without identity documents, stateless people cannot easily travel, and may be forced to follow illegal routes.
‘Minorities and indigenous peoples are already marginalized in many countries, but they face added challenges if they are also stateless,’ says Claire Thomas, MRG’s Deputy Director. ‘What has shocked us most, though, is seeing how discrimination written in to laws, or by officials, leads to statelessness for many minority and indigenous community members.’
Aside from legal and bureaucratic hurdles, communities that have lived over many generations within the borders of a state may be presented as ‘foreigners’ or ‘migrants’, to justify their exclusion.
In the Dominican Republic, over 100,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent are stateless. A new law passed in 2014 denied citizenship to many Haitian descendants, despite some having lived in the country for over 80 years.
Stateless Roma are spread across Europe, especially in Russia, Slovakia and the countries of former Yugoslavia. Many thousands lack birth certificates, or any other official state recognition.
Statelessness is worsened by conflict, says MRG. Kurds fleeing war in Syria who have lost, or were never issued their papers, are unable to prove they are Syrian, and may end up stateless.
In Africa, the creation of South Sudan has left ethnic minorities living on either side of the new border at risk of statelessness. Nomads, such as animal herders who frequently move across official boundaries in search of pasture and water for their livestock, are also vulnerable.
‘As a first step to ending this hopeless situation for so many people around the world, states must ensure their nationality laws do not discriminate,’ adds Thomas. ‘But they also need to make sure that all communities have access to citizenship, and that authorities do not deliberately exclude groups or make it overly difficult for them to prove their nationality.’
The new report, which includes films, photo stories and case studies, calls for an end to all statelessness, but particularly focuses on how deeply statelessness is rooted in discrimination and racism, and sets out how to assist and protect stateless minorities and indigenous peoples. http://bit.ly/2gAxVxP
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